I’ve been meaning to write this story for months, but I think the reason I didn’t was because it needed privacy, and time to progress, percolate, and permeate through me until it grew from one small stone into an incredible, inverted pyramid.
It started out as a feeling, which then grew into a single thought. ASK LISA.
Now, for reference, Lisa is a friend of mine, but when this all started we were mere acquaintances, social media buddies. Not real life friends, yanno? She was high above me, a professional editor. The demands on her time for the written word? I can’t even begin to imagine.
My perspective and our friendship changed (from night to day) however, when I finally did what that feeling was prompting me to do. ASK LISA.
So, side note: I shelved my Cupid story nearly two years ago, and we’re talking, buried it the ground, in a dungeon with no key, in a castle made of sharp things and black tar, with no doors or windows, on top of the highest mountain guarded by dragons and warlords and spiders.
That first story of mine, FOR THE LOVE, with a dark Cupid, had killed my spirit, my muse, and my mojo. And it was never coming out, grounded for eternity, and could rot in misery alone and cold and DIE, DIE, DIE as far as I was concerned.
That was the plan, at least.
After I buried it, I took a mental break, before I was struck to write again, some months later. That’s something I have blogged about. But what I haven’t told you is what’s happened since.
In December 2016, I was on a writing break, due to having just completed two drafts of two different stories within a two months span. I was spent, and it was the holidays. I made plans to start edits January 1, 2017. Which is an achievable goal and what-have-you.
So, of course it was somewhere around mid-December that the characters from FOR THE LOVE started digging their way out of that box in the ground in prison. They started rattling on the iron bars, softly as if they meant no harm. As if they’d changed their ways. There was no menace in their voices, and they called to me, but I refused to hear them, added a layer of soot and Sahara sand, and went about my merry holiday way.
When the Christmas tree was sparkling and things were quiet, Lenox or Rozlyn would surface. I was impressed by their digging skills, but that wasn’t enough to get me to listen. More soot and sand. All was quiet again, holiday treats were consumed, and Santa came.
On a bitter cold January day, when I sat down to write with my good friend Daniel, I said something like, “Well, this is the moment where I must decide. Edit THIS, or edit THAT, or rewrite THAT HORRIBLE SIX-YEAR-OLD THING I CALL A NOVEL.”
I shocked myself–surprised at the words that came out of my mouth. I had no intentions of rewriting anything, let alone FOR THE LOVE.
Daniel asked me if I knew what I wanted to do to the story, if something had come to me that would change it. Again, my mouth did its own thing.
“Yeah, I think so.” Uhhhhno.
Not once had I ever thought about what I’d do to it. My plan was to do nothing. Let it rot!
To make this long story slightly shorter, I decided to give it five chapters. FIVE. No more. If I couldn’t make five chapters shine, then I would lock it back up.
Because while this Cupid story is my baby, it’s also like an abusive boyfriend, and I do not mean to make light of such a thing. But honestly, I felt so beat up by it. I’d cried, I felt betrayed; I was hurt. And I know better than to go back to a situation that didn’t make me feel good. But the crazy thing was, as soon as I cracked the dungeon open and let it a sliver of candlelight, the characters rejoiced and starting talking to me.
And you know what?
They’d grown up some.
They were sharper, more direct, eager to have me back. They were nicer than before, and they didn’t crowd me. And even better, I’d grown and changed and was more capable of telling their story than I was six years ago.
So, I’ve been rewriting. Not editing. Rewriting. I started by reading what I had written, and after chapter one, I wanted to cry all over again. It sucked! That chapter sucked! I pushed on and read chapter two, and same, I SUCK! When I got to chapter three, I wasn’t sure I could handle reading any more, because all those old wounds were opening up and it was painful. But I went on, a masochist, I suppose. However, something happened it chapter three.
I didn’t suck.
That chapter wasn’t so bad. Actually, most of us it was pretty good. I read four and five with hope blossoming in my heart, and then I shut it down. I closed that document up, with plans not to return to it unless necessary.
I opened a white page document. The cursor blinked at me, challenging, pushing, teasing, mocking while I stalled.
Fear was so huge, I could barely get past it. It was so intimidating and solid, I should’ve assigned it to guard the castle. Maybe then I wouldn’t have been drawn back to the story like a prince to a damsel in distress.
I wrote the first sentence. It was a bad one. It sucked worse than anything I’d written in those five old chapters.
But I went on and wrote the second line. And tears welled up in my eyes, and fear pushed it’s big belly out and into my face. There was no way I could do this. All the real voices came back–all the negative feedback, all the rejections, all the emails from authors in various stages of writing with their comments, all of it–came rushing at me. It was like standing at the base of Niagara and trying to take a drink. Very specific comments came barreling at me, things people I had respected or admired said that were in actuality hurtful, icy, and flat-out not encouraging. Just typing this makes me cringe, and I admit, I’m not sure I trust those certain someones to not throw down the same kind of talk regarding what and how I write. I can and have forgiven, but I am less likely to return to them for insight or advice.
Somehow, I persevered and wrote the third miserable, weak sentence to a story I have no title for. Because it’s not FOR THE LOVE anymore. It’s just not.
And then four came.
And then five.
And then I had a paragraph. And it wasn’t pretty but there it was, and it felt good to press on and put Big Bad Fear into place. Fear had to shrink back and pull in his gut, because I was wielding my little writing dagger, so help me.
And after five chapters, I took a big breath, and said to myself, “Self, we’re taking this first chapter to Storymakers, to the First Chapter workshop, and if I get more than five red marks telling me to do better . . . then we’re quitting this story.”
But before that happened, Ms. Inner Voice whispered ASK LISA to read it.
And I told her No.
You don’t ASK LISA to do that kind of thing. It’s bad manners. Unprofessional. Just, no.
So I didn’t, and I ignored Inner Voice for three weeks until she was so persistent and loud that I realized it wasn’t Ms. Inner Voice at all, but God whispering to me. So I pull out my Adulting Skillz and wrote Lisa a message. Would she be willing to look at 10 pages for the first chapter workshop?
To my shock, and somewhat to my horror, she said YES. Guys, I was planning on a kind thanks-for-asking-but-NO.
Then I panicked, because I had to send chapter one, and I’d just written it. If it was ink, it would’ve been wet!
But adulting skillz on, I sent it.
And she bled me. But not so bad I cried. Actually it was like the best kind of bleeding ever–if that’s even a thing. Her red marks were blissful notes for me to work through.
And I did. I worked my tail off.
And I thanked her and went to Storymakers. With a raging case of pneumonia. (That’s a whole different story, but suffice it to say, after being hospitalized and fully drugged, I went to the conference in my stoned-but-determined state. I remember some of the conference. Well, the parts I didn’t sleep through anyway.)
And when my mentor handed me my ten pages, the pages she’d gone over, I took a deep breath, and started counting the comments.
There were lots. I lost track after page four. But the thing was, all of them were positive.
There was only ONE . . . ONE TEENY TINY COMMENT that wasn’t a “fix this,” but a “hey, you could do this here.” It was “You could add a subjective correlative.” Guys, that’s upperclassmen talk. That’s working-on-my-doctorate chat. Those big words aren’t newbie words. In the past, they would’ve gone over my head, but this time, I swallowed them up and thought about it.
And I walked away on cloud nine, high above the castle of deep despair.
And then I was still sick and lost a month of my life to pneumonia. But when I was better, I reread the comments. That’s when Ms. Inner Voice came back and said, ASK LISA to look at chapter two.
And I said NO.
That’s not professional. That’s bad manners. Just, no.
Until, you guessed it, I got the message. It wasn’t Inner Voice at all. It takes me a while to learn that, I guess.
So I did that adulting thing again, and messaged her and was scared and feeling stupid.
And that’s when my life CHANGED in one of the most positive, encouraging ways ever. I mean, it’s next to meeting my husband and having my four kids. It ranks up there with all the important memories in my life.
Lisa said, YES. And less than half hour later, she returned chapter two back to me with her notes, and asked me:
“Soooooo…..are you going to let me read chapter 3? *puppy dog eyes*
I about died.
And after chapter three, she asked for four, and then five.
And somewhere around that time, I started to freak out. I was already living in a weird, wired stated of writing and having Lisa look at every single chapter, but I was also living in constant fear that she’d quit me. That one day, she wouldn’t have time for me, or ask me for the next chapter. So I adulted and asked her to DEFINE OUR RELATIONSHIP. It was kind of teenagery, but I needed to know.
That’s when she graced me again with another little life changer. She said she wasn’t going anywhere and that she’d see this story through to the end, and a lot more nice things and it would kind of get molassesy and sugary here if I told you all the sweetness and confection that came from her. I was crazed with trying to understand how I’d hit a jackpot, scored a magical genie, and found the end of the rainbow all in one shot. Some days, I am still confused, but asking WHY doesn’t get you very far. So, I chalk it up to God.
So, here we are at the beginning of November on chapter 19, chatting on a daily basis. I wake up to messages of encouragement or Supernatura gifs. Some days, I’m the one sending those messages to her.
I’m almost done drafting this baby, too.
And there are so many little stories that I could share about Lisa and this last year, but I’m out of time for now.
So suffice it to say, Lisa has converted me to SUPERNATURAL, has given me her wings when mine were broken, is a spotlight in my dim castle, the voice in my head when I write, the Goddess Supreme of fixing my poor sentences, and has a gift for taking me out in the knees while simultaneously handing me stilts.
I will never, ever, ever ignore the words ASK LISA from now on.
And God willing, if I rise above the writing fog, above the ozone layer of authors, and make it as a twinkling star in the universe of words, I will always and forever be able to say it was, in part, because of LISA.
So, Lisa . . .